oil vs acrylic

Oil vs Acrylic Paint – The Difference between Acrylic and Oil Paint

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What medium should I use, oil or acrylic paints? This is one of the first questions that you will need to answer when deciding to start painting. While the answer to this does not need to be set in stone, it will play a pivotal role during the early stages of your painting journey. You can, of course, experiment with both. We recommend rather staring with one, mastering it, and then moving on to the next medium. So, to help you determine which medium best suits your painting needs, we will share everything you need to know to make an informed decision.




What is Acrylic Paint?

When it comes to determining the difference between acrylic and oil paint, you first need to know what each paint is. To start with, we will be answering “What is acrylic paint?”. Acrylic paints are synthetic and have been created to blend and mix in the same way that oil paints do.

Acrylic paint dries incredibly fast, so only decant or pour out enough paint to use on a given section to reduce the risk of the paint drying on your palette and ultimately going to waste. This also means that you need to be 100 percent sure about what you are painting because once it has dried, there is no turning back. It is rather unforgiving in this way, leaving very little room for error. A pro tip for slowing down the drying process is to spray the paint with water – very lightly. You may be asking “Is acrylic paint water-based? because we are using water t slow down the drying process, and the answer is a simple yes.

Another tip that will assist you in reducing paint wastage is to only select a few colors to use per session. As a result, you will not pour out paint unnecessarily and watch it go to waste. Careful planning will help you ensure that you have the correct colors on your palette for each session.

what is acrylic paint used for


What Is Acrylic Paint Used For?

This quick-drying paint is not suitable for projects that will require adjustments or amendments, for example, portraits. It is, however, suitable for painted art that requires multiple layers of paint, as the quick-drying nature of acrylic paints makes this process a lot less time-consuming. We recommend acrylic paints for beginner painters as they are easier to use and require fewer additional materials and equipment to get you started. The best way to answer the question“What is acrylic paint used for” is to consider the basics of the paint, it is water-based and quick drying. So, anything that requires a quick coat of paint will do just fine.


Recommended Professional Acrylic Paint: LIQUITEX

Liquitex offers a wide range of acrylic paints to meet the needs of beginner and professional painters alike. Beginner sets consist of 6 tubes of paint, while the more advanced sets can include up to 24 different colors. The product that we are recommending comes in 12 different colors and is perfect for professional painters.

LIQUITEX Professional Heavy Body Acrylic Paint Classic Set
  • The acrylic paint is thick, rich, and highly pigmented
  • Flexible when dry and creates a beautiful satin finish
  • Contains 12 basic acrylic colors for all your possible needs
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  • Thick paint
  • Concentrated color
  • Smooth finish
  • Easy to clean


  • Takes longer to dry
  • Unpleasant smell


Cost-Effective Acrylic Paint: CREATIVE JOY

Starting a new hobby, such as painting, can become an expensive exercise if you are not careful. When it comes to finding cost-effective, high-quality paint that will bring your ideas to life, Creative Joy should be your brand of choice. This beginner set comes with 12 paints as well as brushes, giving you everything that you need to get started.

CREATIVE JOY Acrylic Paint Set include 6 Brushes, 12 Colors
  • One dozen 12 ml (0.42 fl oz) tubes of non-toxic acrylic paint; six assorted brushes.
  • Best acrylic paint set for beginners, find your creative joy through acrylic painting!
  • You can use these vivid acrylic paints on paper, canvas, wood, fabric, etc.
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  • Budget-friendly
  • High-quality paint
  • Includes brushes
  • Vibrant color range


  • Packaging can result in paint drying
  • Uneven coverage


Best Value for Money Acrylic Paint: LIQUITEX BASICS

We have already mentioned that Liquitex can cater to the most diverse needs of painters of any skill level. This set is ideal for beginners, and although the pigment concentration is lower than other acrylic paints, it still delivers a vibrant, high-quality finish.

LIQUITEX BASICS Acrylic Paint Set, 48 Tubes, 22ml
  • Kit includes forty eight 22 milliliter (0.74 ounce) tubes
  • Basics use the same high-quality pigments and rigorous manufacturing process as our professional range
  • Comes in a range of opacities
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  • Impressive color
  • Works on most surfaces
  • More bang for your buck
  • Beginner-friendly


  • Small tubes



What is Oil Paint?

As the name implies, oil paint consists of oil and pigment – pigment refers to the color of the paint. In most cases, oil paints are toxic and poisonous. We urge you to exercise caution when making use of these paints and recommend storing these paints in a safe place that is out of reach of small animals and children. This also means that you need to work in a well-ventilated space to prevent fumes from building up that also provides enough room to set out your painting materials.

Oil paint can be quite thick, so to thin it out, you can always mix in additional oil to make it more fluid and easier to work with. Another way to thin out oil paint and to help it dry faster is to mix it with a paint thinner. This method of thinning the paint is an art in itself, as you need to find the correct balance when it comes to mixing the two substances. Try to buy an odorless paint thinner as the fumes and smell of the “normal” kind can have some serious health risks when used.

acrylic vs oil paint


What is Oil Paint Used For?

You may have noticed that most of the world’s most famous paintings were all created using oil paints. This is due to the versatile nature of these paints, as well as the absence of acrylic paints during that time. As a result, many people view oil paint as the more professional of the two, however, recent advancements in the world of paint have almost leveled the playing field when it comes to the acrylic vs oil paint debate.


Best Overall Oil Paint: MICHAEL HARDING

When it comes to superior, vibrant, and rich pigmentation, Michael Harding delivers. This starter kit comes with six tubes of paint that serves as an introduction to painting with this medium. For beautiful results every time, we recommend investing in this British brand, although it is a slightly more expensive option.

MICHAEL HARDING Artist Oil Colors Painter Set
  • These oil paints offer great coverage, with vibrant and true colors
  • They are creamy, buttery, easy to handle and to manipulate texture
  • High pigment content, providing resistance to fading. No fillers, extenders or driers
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  • Beautiful, vibrant colors
  • Mixes easily
  • Easy to spread
  • Will not crack over time


  • More expensive option


Best for Beginners Oil Paint: GAMBLIN 1980

The ultimate starter kit for any beginner painter looking to take on oil paint comes to us from Gamblin 1980. This starter kit comes with eight tubes of paint, although there are other kits available that consist of 40 different colors. The paint is smooth, buttery, and easy to use. It also mixes well, making it a user-friendly option for beginners.

GAMBLIN 1980 Oil Color Exclusive Set
  • Includes 8 colors of Gamblin 1980 Oil Colors in 37ml tubes
  • Added bonus of a free cradled wood panel and Solvent-free Gel
  • 1980 Oil Colors are a high-end student grade oil at a real value, made in USA
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  • Comes with a wood panel
  • Set includes solvent-free gel
  • High-quality paint


  • Takes a long to dry


Best Historical Oil Paint: SENNELIER

There is something special about being able to paint with an oil medium that was used by many famous painters before us – including Pablo Picasso and Paul Cezanne. Sennelier has been the recommended oil paint to use when it comes to getting in touch with history, and when you work with these paints, it is easy to see why.

SENNELIER Finest Artists' Oils
  • Oil Paints withg quality traditional and modern pigments,
  • Made with pure, first-press safflower oil, 10 x 21ml
  • Pigments are ground very slowly with extreme care to an extra-fine consistency
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  • Professional quality
  • Lasting color
  • Has been used for centuries
  • Does not yellow with age


  • Paint may separate



What Is the Difference Between Acrylic and Oil Paint?

Now that we have an idea of what each paint is, we can begin to dive into helping you in the debate of oil vs acrylic paints. Let us start with the most obvious difference, the time it takes for each paint to dry.

What is Oil Paint


Oil vs Acrylic Paint Drying Time

We have already mentioned that acrylic paints dry incredibly fast, so how does this compare to the drying time of oil paint? On average, an oil painting can up to a year to be properly dry. As a result, you have more flexibility and room for quick amendments or changes should the need arise. Acrylic paints on the other hand require quick action, especially if you need to fix a mistake.

The amount of paint applied will affect the drying time, so to speed up the process, thinner strokes will work best. This is pretty self-explanatory, thicker paint takes longer to dry. Be careful not to make the layers too thick, as this can lead to the paint cracking as it begins to dry. If you need to apply multiple layers of oil paint, start with a thin layer and then slowly build it up.


Acrylic vs Oil Paint Color Results

Something that needs to be considered when painting is the final color of your painting. Oil paints will dry to almost the same color as it was when wet, while acrylic paints tend to darken as they dry. We recommend testing the different acrylic paint colors on a blank piece of canvas to see what the color will look like once it has dried. Some oil paints yellow over time.

When it comes to blending, we recommend oil paint. This means that if you are painting a sunset or landscape, you can easily blend the colors to create the desired, distant effect. The quick drying time of acrylic paints make blending colors a lot more difficult to do. So, if you want to blend colors, oil paints are the better option.


What is Easier to Clean Up, Oil or Acrylic Paint?

Oil paints are a lot messier than acrylic paints. This is mostly due to the difference in drying time. Acrylic paints are easier to manage and clean up as It dries quickly, while oil paints become smudgy, difficult to clean the mess. Oil is also a lot trickier to clean up as opposed to water-based paints like acrylic. To properly clean oil paints, you will need to invest in cleaning chemicals that have been designed to do so. It is also incredibly important to clean your brushes properly, as the oils and solvents can damage and deteriorate your brushes.

When it comes to cleaning up acrylic paint, the water-based nature of the product assists in making it easier to clean up, requiring nothing more than warm, soapy water to cleaning your brushes and working area. If you are looking for easy-to-clean, hassle-free, paints, then we recommend acrylic paints.

what is acrylic paint


Which Paint is More Cost-Effective?

Acrylic paints are more budget-friendly when it comes down to them. This is because oil paints require additional materials while painting. These materials include cleaning materials, solvents and oils, and palette knives. The paint and paintbrushes used in oil painting are also a bit more expensive than acrylic paint. To reduce recurring costs when painting with oil paints, proper care and maintenance of your painting gear will help extend its working life significantly.


Painting Oil Over Acrylic Paints

When it comes down to it, painting is all about experimenting with different mediums, something that would come to mind would be whether you can paint over acrylic paint surfaces using oil paint. It is safe to paint over acrylic paint using oil paint, however, you cannot paint acrylic over oil-based paint. The reason? While oil can adhere to the dry acrylic surface, oil-based paints make it difficult for the acrylic paint to stick to the oily, somewhat wet surface. Simply put, painting oil over acrylic paints is completely okay, just make sure that the paint has dried properly before doing so.



The Final Verdict: Oil vs Acrylic Paint

At the end of the day, it is all about your preference. We recommend starting your painting career or hobby with an acrylic paint setup. This is due to the cost effectiveness of the setup and easy clean-up nature of acrylic paints. However, if you are looking for a more customizable paint that does not dry as quickly, oil-based pants get the job done. The biggest difference between the two paints is their application, so pick the option that you are more comfortable with.

difference between acrylic and oil paint



Frequently Asked Questions


What Do Need to Start Oil Painting?

To start painting with oil paints, the first thing on your list should be high-quality oil pants as well as paintbrushes as well as a painting medium. You need something to paint on as well as a place to work on your masterpiece. The correct cleaning materials are also essential to clean up your space after a hard day’s work.


What Colors Do I Need in My Kit?

To preserve your budget while giving you a feel for painting, we recommend getting the three primary colors as well as white. This also means that you can mix the colors if you need a specific color, or you can simply just work with the colors that you currently have. The choice is yours.


What Surface Should I Paint Oil On?

When joining the world of painting, there are three materials that you can use. This includes stretched canvas, cotton canvas, and wooden panels. Stretched canvas is the easiest and most cost-effective to use, with cotton canvas being more expensive and wooden panels requiring prep work before painting.

painting oil over acrylic


Is It Necessary to Wash My Brushes After Painting with Oil-Based Paint?

This depends on your painting schedule. If you are planning to paint the next day, simply wipe off excess paint, dip the brushes in oil and leave them to rest. The oil will prevent the brushes from drying out and keep the brushes soft and moist until your next session. A quick wipe and you will be good to go as soon as you are ready.


Is Acrylic Paint Water Based or Oil Based?

Acrylic paint is water-based, which makes it easy to use and clean up. This also provides a quicker drying time as a result, whereas oil paints take longer to dry and are more difficult to clean up. When it comes to simplifying the process, we recommend water-based paints.

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